How does Solar Energy Efficiency Compare to Electricity?

Sheryl Butterfield
Sheryl Butterfield

Solar energy efficiency definitely beats electricity if the buyer can afford higher up-front costs. Many homeowners seeking a new heater, for example, are not willing to pay five times the money for a solar system when electric heaters are so much cheaper. In the long run, however, solar energy is much more efficient than electricity. Over time, once initial costs are paid, going solar saves more money and is more energy efficient.

Solar panels can generate clean, renewable energy.
Solar panels can generate clean, renewable energy.

The upside to electricity is its availability. Some solar energy products require sunlight to shine on it to work. On cloudy days and in cloudy regions of the world, solar energy cannot be counted on as often as in sunny, hot climates. Also, large surfaces are typically required to harness the sun's heat and provide power. Nevertheless, solar technologies are becoming more advanced and rising to the challenges. Solar remains the cleaner source and is cheaper in the long run.

Purchasing solar power systems is costly compared with using conventional electricity sources, but is cheaper to operate.
Purchasing solar power systems is costly compared with using conventional electricity sources, but is cheaper to operate.

Today's economy provides a friendly environment for switching from electricity to solar power. Federal tax credits are available in the U.S., as well as various utility rebates and refunds by state or country. Monthly comparisons of energy use and bills prove substantial savings after solar system installation.

Homeowners have many solar choices for heating, cooling and hot water systems. Heating and cooling interior spaces consumes more energy than any other home component. Active solar heating involves heating liquid or air in a collector device. Passive heating and cooling both take advantage of building design to control temperatures. Solar heat can generate power for a cooling system as well.

Generating heated water is also a major cost, although less energy is required than for heating and cooling air. Solar hot water heaters are gradually decreasing in cost. Solar energy efficiency can be gained by either an active or passive solar water heating system. Basically, the sun's heat is collected in solar collectors and warms the water in storage tanks. Active systems use pumps; passive systems do not.

Businesses around the world are considering solar energy efficiency as a way to save money and show environmental concern. Solar mirrors on an large office building can heat water pipes and cool air in the interior spaces. Some corporations are enjoying lower operating costs by capitalizing on solar energy efficiency. By using solar power as an alternative source of energy, nations worldwide depend less on other fuels while protecting air quality. Carrying out solar energy efficiency goals also leads to increased jobs, as skilled workers are required for producing, installing and maintaining solar products.

Sheryl Butterfield
Sheryl Butterfield

Sheryl is a freelance writer based in Denver, Colorado. She specializes in articles about environmental issues, renewable energy, and parenting teenagers.

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Discussion Comments


@GenevaMech- I am a LEED Green Associate and I can give you a few solar design topics to discuss with your builder. You should talk to your builder about building orientation, the use of overhangs, the use of shading, and thermal mass. Depending on what region you are building in, you can use these techniques to maximize or minimize thermal solar energy.


I am getting ready to build my first home, and I want to maximize the solar thermal energy efficiency of my home. What are some design steps that I can take to maximize the use of passive solar?

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